It’s 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, and either you’re a witch or you’re not a witch. Or maybe you are a witch whether you’re a witch or not. Either way, you’re probably going to hang – unless you are Giles Corey and are pressed to death by stones… look it up! It is on this canvas that Salem 1692 from Facade Games takes shape. Designed by Travis Hancock, Salem 1692 allows 4-12 players to accuse each other of Witchcraft, steal or destroy each other’s stuff, and basically just wreak havoc upon one another. Oh, and it’s super fun!
If you’ve ever played Werewolf (One Night or otherwise) Salem 1692 will seem very familiar. Frankly, though, it Geppettoesquely takes Werewolf and turns it into a real game. Here’s how Salem 1692 works. Depending on the number of players, there may be one or two witches dealt out at the beginning of the game. The goal for the witches is to be the last ones left alive at the table. The goal for the non witches is to reveal all the witch cards that were dealt at the beginning of the game, wherever they may be. Sounds a lot like Werewolf, right? But Salem adds just enough complexity and strategic tension to take it to the next level without increasing the entry level for play.
Each player starts with a hand of three action cards. Turns are simple – either draw two cards from the deck or play as many cards as you like from your hand. You can only play cards on other players, never yourself. Cards offer various ways to protect or harm other players, accusing them of being witches, cursing them, or stealing their stuff and giving it to other players. The card play provides an appropriate level of strategy and interaction without over-complicating or slowing the game down.
In addition to their hand of cards, at the beginning of the game players will receive cards which will identify their hidden roles and will remain face down in front of the player until revealed by curses or accusations. Of these cards, players may get 3-5 dealt to them, again based on the number of players. Players are allowed to look at their own face down cards at any time and shuffle them about as well. Most of the cards say “not a witch” but there will be a single constable and one or two witches depending on player count. Like other social deduction games, and assuming there are two witches in the game, witches will have the opportunity to see each other before the game starts so they can work together.
At various times in the game players will be forced to reveal one or more of their cards. Most of the time you get to choose the card you will reveal, but not always. If you reveal a witch card you are out of the game, and if it is the last witch card the non witches automatically win. If at any time you turn over your last card, you are killed and are eliminated from the game. Remember that as soon as there are only witches left alive the witches win. Also, there is a chance that the witches will multiply as the game progresses.
Once per time through the draw deck a single Conspiracy card will randomly appear. At that time, players will blindly select a role card from the player on their left. In this way, witches can spread from player to player. If you’ve ever had a witch card you will always be a witch even if it is taken from you during the Conspiracy Phase. The Conspiracy Phase is always exciting because your role may now be completely different going forward if you just became a witch. Ramping up the tension even more is the Night Phase, which occurs each time the draw deck is exhausted.
In the Night Phase, players will close their eyes and witches will “wake up” and secretly choose a player to kill, placing that role card from the kill deck face down on the table. After the witches close their eyes the constable – if that card has not yet been revealed – will open her eyes and place her gavel in front of a player. Once all players have opened their eyes, the player with the gavel knows they are safe this night. The rest of the players do not. But don’t fret yet, because before the victim is identified, players each get a chance to “confess” by revealing one of their face down role cards (remember revealing the last one kills you anyway). By confessing a player will not die if the kill card the witches chose identifies that player. This aspect is one of the best parts of Salem 1692. Do you chance it and not confess and possibly get eliminated form the game? Do you confess even if you are a witch to throw off suspicion? Again, more tension, and, I would argue, more fun.
That’s pretty much how Salem is played. I have to say, the game caught me by surprise. The box art immediately draws your attention with its book-like package. More than once a stranger has seen the box and asked what I’m reading. Beyond that, though, it is really hard to tell how much game there is inside the cool box. But there is. Facade Games claims that they create games that are “simple, smart, and sleek.” Salem 1692 is definitely all three. I’m pretty certain it is the best social deduction game I’ve played. It provides great choices, strategic tension, and lots of laughter all with great theme. These elements combine for a great gaming experience in less than an hour. You really should try it if you can. In addition to Salem, Facade publishes another game called Tortuga 1667 which may be one of the best pirate themed games in existence. You should give it a shot as well.
Thanks for reading and keep nerding on.